Ljubljana is definitely one of the most difficult to pronounce Capital cities in Europe, and it is a hidden gem in Europe, only now starting to get more people considering it as a tourist destination.
I found myself in Ljubljana in January, which had temperatures between minus two and three. So, it was a bitterly cold experience for this Aussie, however I still had an amazing time and it was one of my favourite city breaks.
After dumping my bag at my AirBnB late on Thursday night I made my way to Tromostovje – also known as the Triple Bridge – which links the old town (containing a large portion of the city’s historical and cultural sites) with the modern city of Ljubljana.
The triple bridge has an this iconic design, which allows foot traffic across the Ljubljanica river without having to worry about being mowed down by horse and carriage. Now the entire area is a pedestrian-only zone into the old town.
Right by the triple bridge is Prešeren Square, which contains Cerkev Marijinega oznanjenja (Franciscan Church of Annunciation), a 17th century Franciscan church that had a bright pink exterior that looked beautiful lit up at night.
The next morning I rose nice and early and made my way to Cerkev Marijinega Oznanjenja again to begin my day with a free walking tour.
I find these are a great way to see any European city, as the guides usually have vast knowledge on the history of the country and the city and you can tip however much you like, no pressure at all as they understand some people are on a budget.
The tour began by taking us down by the Ljubljanica river towards the Dragon Bridge.
Originally it was named the Jubilee Bridge for Emperor Franz Josef I in 1901, but later changed to the Dragon Bridge in 1919. This was to represent the dragon killed by the founder of Ljubljana, and it is said if a virgin walks over the bridge the dragons will wag their tails. They didn’t wag for me…
Would you put this myth to the test when you visit Ljubljana? 😉
We made our way through the central market where locals gather to sell their produce. There are a couple of small restaurants on by the bank of the river near the market, and you would not believe what most of them sell.
The local delicacy is… horse meat. That’s right, your horses are not safe in Slovenia!
I did not try it myself, but the tour guide said it was lovely… I took her word on it.
We then came by the Mesarski Most (Butchers Bridge), which had some lovely bronze sculptures across it, and tourists love to use this particular bridge in Ljubljana as the lovers lock bridge – those bridges where you see hundreds of padlocks that signify the couples’ “eternal” love.
Only for them to be eventually be cut off and thrown away by the council to make space for new tourists!
Whilst the tour guide was giving us some information about this section of the city, most of us found we were paying attention to a street performer with a horse head mask on, followed by some Hare Krishnas. All I will say is that we decided that was the moment to move on.
We then saw Ljubljana Cathedral, which has been destroyed several times over the centuries and has undergone several changes in style from Gothic to Baroque.
We made our way back over the river to Congress Square, which was covered in a giant ice-skating rink!
The University of Ljubljana was within the square and the guide decided to give us a brief history about Slovenia’s involvement in the Yugoslav War. This part of the Yugoslav War only lasted 10 days. With several dozen casualties on both sides a negotiation quickly began, and the Yugoslav forces left Slovenia, making them the second easiest country to succeed from Yugoslavia with North Macedonia holding a referendum and leaving peacefully with no casualties.
The final stop on our walking tour was the Baroque-style Ursuline Church of the Holy Trinity. Ljubljana has a variety of colour choices for their buildings, giving it a vibrant look from golds to yellows to pinks.
Once the tour was over and we all went our separate ways, I walked back over to the river to make my way to Ljubljana Castle.
This walk gave me the chance to see some other sites like the Robba Fountain, an 18th century obelisk water fountain.
I also got to see the Town Hall. One surprising site I didn’t think I’d see all the way out here was a kangaroo. To this day I still have no idea why that was there!
To get up to the top of the hill where Ljubljana Castle is located you can take the Grajska tirna vzpenjača – the Castle Funicular. It is a clear box that gives you great views of the city as you make your way up to see the castle.
Ljubljana Castle has a lot to offer. Built in the 11th century, it was in a very well protected spot on castle hill that overlooked the entire city. The views were beautiful, even on the overcast, cold winter’s day.
The Castle has guided tours and the guides have great knowledge about the castle’s history and the history of the area. There are also many fun activities for kids, which I may have taken part in as well. Anything for a photo op.
Unfortunately, on my final day in Ljubljana I was unable to continue to see the sights, as I seriously pulled a nerve in my back and neck that caused a lot of pain, and I had to spend the last day resting for my flight home.
I certainly would go back to Ljubljana as it has so much to offer, and it has a great network of buses that can get you anywhere in the country. Next time I will return in summer!